THE THEATRE AND THE PLAGUE | Antonin Artaud
A project by John Romão in collaboration with Salomé Lamas
On April 6, 1933, invited by René Allendy, Antonin Artaud proposed to the Sorbonne audience a conference with the strange title “The Theater and the Plague”. Nobody expected the show that was about to happen there. The only documentation that exists appears in the “Diary” of Anaïs Nin: “But there are no words to describe what Artaud interpreted on the Sorbonne platform. He forgot the conference, the theater, his ideas, Dr. [Renée] Allendy at his side, the audience, the young students, his wife, the teachers and the stage directors. His face was in convulsions of anguish and his hair was soaked in sweat. The eyes dilated, the muscles tightened, the fingers struggled to maintain flexibility. It made us feel the dryness and the burning of his throat, the suffering, the fever, the fire in his guts. He was in torture. Howled. Delirious. It represented his own death, his own crucifixion. People started to get short of breath. Then laugh and laugh. Everyone laughed! They whistled. Finally, people went out one by one, with a loud noise, talking, protesting. When they left, they knocked on the door. (…) More protests and boos too. But Artaud continued, until the last breath. And there he stayed on the floor. (…) Screaming of cholera: “They just want to hear about; they want to hear an objective lecture on theater and the plague, whereas I want to offer them the own experience, the plague itself, to make them terrified and wake them up. I want to wake them up. They don’t understand that they’re dead. Their death is total, like a deafness, a blindness. I showed them the agony. Mine, yes, and that of everyone who lives.”
In April 2020, during the mandatory confinement, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the theaters are empty. John Romão and Salomé Lamas reenact the conference “The Theater and the Plague” by Antonin Artaud with 5 actors in 5 theaters, expanding like a virus the words of Artaud, who made the Sorbonne auditorium empty in 1933 and which now occupy the empty theaters.
Teatro Romano (Lisbon) | With the actor Albano Jerónimo and Lídia Fernandes, coordinator of Teatro Romano
São Luiz Teatro Municipal (Lisbon) | With the actress Cucha Carvalheiro and Aida Tavares, artistic director of SLTM
Teatro do Bairro Alto (Lisbon) | With actress Mónica Calle and Francisco Frazão, artistic director of TBA
LU.CA – Teatro Luis de Camões (Lisbon) | With actor Igor Regalla and Susana Menezes, artistic director of LU.CA
Teatro Viriato (Viseu) | With actor and director John Romão and Patrícia Portela, artistic director of Teatro Viriato
At the same time, during the month of August, “The Theater and the Plague” becomes a text and video score, expanded to other Portuguese and foreign cities, thus contaminating geographically, like a virus, space and people, by being reenacted by actors from different cities and countries in empty theaters. Theses videos will be published on the Youtube page of the project and in the virus map.
Youtube page of the project
Find on the YouTube page of the project the 5 videos produced by John Romão and Salomé Lamas and the videos-answers from different actors in different empty theatres all over the world: Porto (Portugal), Trieste (Italy), Barcelona (Spain), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), among many others who are sending us their videos until the end of August 2020.
The map of the virus “The Theatre and the Plague” gathers reenactements of the Artaud’s conference by different actors, from different theaters and geographies. Click and discover the videos.
Text: Antonin Artaud
Translation to Portuguese: Aníbal Fernandes, John Romão
Concept: John Romão
Direction: John Romão, Salomé Lamas
With: Albano Jerónimo and Lídia Fernandes (Teatro Romano), Cucha Carvalheiro and Aida Tavares (São Luiz Teatro Municipal), Mónica Calle and Francisco Frazão (Teatro do Bairro Alto), Igor Regalla and Susana Menezes (LU.CA), John Romão and Patrícia Portela (Teatro Viriato)
Photography direction: Miguel Nabinho
Image assistant: João Martinho
Sound direction: Miguel Martins
Montage: Francisco Moreira
Music: Gabriel Ferrandini
Graphic design: Diogo Dias João
Image and equipment studio: Screen
Sound and equipment studio: McFly
Press: Helena César
Photographic documentation: Bruno Simão
Executive production: John Romão e Salomé Lamas
Coproduction: EGEAC, Teatro Viriato
Partnership: São Luiz Teatro Municipal, Teatro Romano, Teatro do Bairro Alto, LU.CA – Teatro Luís de Camões
Media partners: Antena 1, Antena 2
Thanks to Aníbal Fernandes, Joana Gomes Cardoso, Jonas Omberg